In Defense of Homosexual Teachers: the Unseen Minority

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Despite the progress made in liberalizing attitudes toward homosexuality in the United States in the past 30 years, gay men and lesbians in America are still members of discriminated minority groups and the substantial resistance to homosexual practices continue to exist. Perceiving homosexuality as inappropriate sexuality and mental illness without convincing scientific evidence and empirical substantiation, to a great extent, reflects the society’s homophobia and ignorance. Homosexual teachers, although an esteemed profession, are particularly vulnerable to such discrimination. For a long time, society regards teacher as “an extremely influential force in molding the intellect and morality of its children” (Dressler 1978).

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Although no empirical evidences prove that homosexual teachers can exert more negative influence on students when compared with heterosexual teachers, they have long been a special target of discrimination due to the heteronormative school environment and have to stay in the closet within the workplace. Hence, a movement is necessary for the group to fight against the social stigma.

Even after the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2004, there are still substantial incidences that reveal the dilemma homosexual teachers are facing. Recent news has revealed the discriminatory treatment toward homosexual teachers in their workplace and the stereotype that allowing homosexuals to teach in the classroom would expose young people to a wrong model. Instead of supporting and pursuing equity for these teachers, administrations in many cases choose to stand by the side of biased parents and even fire those who display the signs of homosexuality. A lesbian teacher Stacy Bailey, who is still in her period of employment, is on leave from her job after she showed the class a photo of her and her wife (Platoff 2018); Nathan Etter, who responded to some students about a bouquet he received on Valentine’s day from his husband, is interrogated by the school officials and asked to “stick to the curriculum” (Schoenberg 2018); an unnamed teacher in Florida is being investigated by school authorities for reading the story of a “homosexual rabbits who lives at the White House and seeks to be united with another male rabbit” (Barillas 2019) to elementary-school students. All these cases exhibit the reality of the society in which homosexuals suffer from insufficient legislation and unequal protection. Although most laws, including the Congress, have made efforts to prohibit employment discrimination around the issue of sex, race, religion and disability, they fail to provide sufficient protections for gay and lesbian employees. The afraid of losing their jobs keep homosexual teachers in closet and prevent them from expressing their true selves and performing in a natural way.

In addition to schools’ unfair treatment of homosexual teachers, parents, with the belief that schools should offer students a heteronormative environment, often express strong opposition against schools’ involvement in homosexual related events and content. Some have gone even further to argue that homosexual teachers are aiming to proselytize and separate children from both their parents and the values they have been taught at home in order to strengthen their own movements. For example, the use of state and federal dollars to fund homosexual recruitment in public schools has outraged many citizens and caused growing concern among heterosexual parents who believe that “homosexual sex is harmful and would lead to the breakdown of human society” (Corvino 2008). From their perspective, although homosexuals “publicly deny they’re recruiting vulnerable youngsters for a life of deviant sexual behavior” (Traditional Values Coalition 2005), they are in fact trying to attract more teenagers to the gay movement and brainwash children by way of education so that children would be indoctrinated with the “truth” that homosexuality is normal and engage in “deviant sex act”. By claiming that homosexual teachers could “poison” the minds of children and calling upon an end of any state or federal funding toward homosexual recruitment programs, the public is implicitly denying homosexuals’ rights to equal employment opportunities and oppugning the normality and rationality of homosexuality.

In defense of the negative images of homosexual teachers depicted by the public, the survey conducted by Rofes in his former middle school provides a powerful refutation which illustrates the experience and long-term impact of having a gay teacher. The analysis of the data suggests that such an openly gay teacher would not necessarily lead to intense concerns and uncomfortable situations for young adolescents. Rather, “they did not spend much time considering the nature of that identity and were not interested in grappling with issues related to a teacher’s sex life” (Rofes 2000). Most responses are neutral or even positive: “people in the media make a much bigger deal out of it than I felt it to be”; “his openness made it more natural, something that was simply another element of himself” (Rofes 2000). His students tend to see the discussion of homosexuality as enlightening and educative, which helps them to be able to discuss this sensitive topic with an adult and demystify it. Following the train of thoughts, although some parents claim that homosexual teachers would impact their kids’ sexual development and urge them to practice the same behavior which is “abnormal” and “sick”, the issue is in fact more meaningful for adults than for children; it is the traditional ideas and stereotypes that distort their thoughts and lead them to be anxious about the subjects that resist the dominant social norms.

To the contrary, openly gay teachers might serve an important role in the moral development of students as it offers authentic experience of stigmatized identities and has the potentials to make children less homophobic and even less xenophobic. Quoting the words from Martin, who organized the Institute for the Protection of Gay and Lesbian Youth: “what the Institute says is that gay and lesbian people are nurturing people who are just as interested in caring for kids as straight people” (2006). In line with Rofes’s observation, a number of recent studies have also revealed the fact that it is prenatal mechanism, rather than social or rearing factors, that affects a person’s sexual orientation development (Bogaert 2006). All these evidences suggest that the sexual orientation of homosexual teachers have nothing to do with their abilities to teach and they would only lead teenagers to the right and healthy path just as heterosexual teachers do.

As a result, in order to fight against the social stigma and stereotypes toward this marginalized community, the primary purpose of the movement proposed is to appeal for more “coming out” rights for homosexual teachers in their workplaces as well as call for equal treatment for those who were unfairly dismissed and discriminated against. Although some limitations exist such as the inexplicit discrimination that cannot be easily eliminated and the movement may outrage more conservative parents, by gathering current and prior homosexual teachers regardless of gender and race from major cities in the United States to perform non-violent mass demonstrations on the issue, as well as attracting donations and supports from other LGBTQ groups and organizations, the movement has the potentials to overcome the barriers of misunderstanding and safeguard the rights of homosexual teachers in the long term.

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In Defense of Homosexual Teachers: The Unseen Minority. (2021, Mar 13). Retrieved from